STUDY | Spend the week studying 2 Corinthians 5:21. Consult the commentary provided and any additional study tools to enhance your preparation.
DETERMINE | Many questions have been included in this guide. Read through this lesson to determine which questions will work best to encourage, push, and grow your group.
PRAY | As you prepare, pray for the preaching of God’s Word this coming weekend. Pray also for your time in this week’s study and your group’s openness to God’s Word.
LANDING POINT | When I give God my sin, I get hope, identity, and purpose in return.
Remember the 4 Rules for Small Group Discussion
- Confidentiality. What’s said in the group stays in the group.
- No cross-talk. Be considerate of others as they share. Refrain from side conversations and texting during group time.
- No fixing. We are not in the group to fix each other. Jesus does that part.
- Sharing. Be sensitive to the amount of time you share. Don’t talk too much or too little. Every person brings something valuable to the group.
As your group time begins, use this section to introduce the topic of discussion.
It’s easy to get lost in the busyness of Christmas. Shopping for that perfect gift, shuffling from party to party, sending out rounds of Christmas cards. In the hustle and bustle, we can lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas, that God saw our need for a Savior and did something about it.
Two thousand years ago, light broke into the darkness. Jesus was born, and His coming brought hope. Centuries before His arrival, God promised to send a Savior for us (Isaiah 53:4–6). The small child in the manger would grow to become a Mighty Savior.
The greatest gift God has ever given us is Himself. Jesus came into this world to defeat the enemies of sin, death, and Satan for us. What does God ask from us in return? He wants our sin. What does it mean to give God your sin? What do you get in return? That’s what your group will discuss this week.
Q: In one word, describe your life during the Christmas season.
Q: What traditions does (did) your family do to remember the meaning of Christmas?
Select 2-3 questions to discuss as a group.
WHAT JESUS GAVE
In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul sums up the entire gospel story in one short sentence. In the first part of the verse we are looking at today, he says, “For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin...” Paul points his readers to the fact that Jesus was sinless. Jesus did what none of us could ever do. He lived a life free from sin’s influence and control. He lived His life totally for God. He was truly righteous. He reflected God’s character perfectly.
The interesting twist in the gospel story is that Jesus was “made to be sin who knew no sin.” Jesus, the sinless Son of God, became like a sinner. Because God is holy, sin must be punished. Jesus took that punishment “for our sake.” He stood in our place and exchanged His righteousness (obedience) for our sinfulness (disobedience). In doing this, Jesus made Himself a sacrifice for sin.
READ: Read 2 Corinthians 5:21. Why was it important that Jesus was sinless?
Q: In your own words, describe how Jesus is both a substitute and a sacrifice for sin.
WHAT WE GET
In the second part of this verse, Paul shows us what Jesus’s death accomplished for us—“...so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” Because Jesus took our sin on Himself and gives us His righteousness in exchange, God sees those who believe in a new light. He doesn’t see a sinner. He sees the perfect obedience of His Son. For Paul, this is the heart of the gospel, that Jesus makes us right before God. In Him, we stand before God as one who lived his or her life totally for God.
READ: What does it mean to live your life totally for God?
Q: Split into pairs and create a sentence that summarizes the gospel story. When finished, share with the group.
Select 2-3 question from this section to answer.
GIVING GOD YOUR SIN
God knows you far better than you know yourself. And, yet, He loves you no less. God wants you to give Him your sin, and leave it with Him. He doesn’t want you to take it back, because He has already dealt with it at the cross. When you give God your sin, you let go. You let go of your perfectionism and your belief that, if you just try hard enough, God will be pleased with you. In Christ, He already is pleased with you. You already have His affection. You let go of moral superiority and an inflated view of yourself. You are simply a sinner saved by grace. You let go of shame and self-hatred. In Christ, you can approach God confidently, knowing He will never reject you or cast you out for your sin.
Q: Why is it sometimes difficult to give God your sin? What holds you back?
Q: Of the things mentioned above, which is the hardest for you to let go of? Why?
HOPE, IDENTITY AND PURPOSE
When you give God your sin, you get hope, identity, and purpose in return. The hope (assurance) you get is that, in Christ, God is for you. His love moved Him to make a way for your salvation. The identity you get is your righteous standing before God. Jesus brought you into God’s family. The Father wants you to live freely in your new identity as His child. Your purpose is now to live for God in a new way. To walk as Jesus walked and teach others to do the same.
Q: Which of these (hope, identity, or purpose) would you like more of in your life? Explain.
Q: What’s one change you can make this week to live with hope, identity, or purpose?
Paul gives us the gospel in a nutshell. Jesus takes our disobedience and gives us His obedience in return, making us right before God. To some, this seems too good to be true. “If you only knew the things I’ve done. I’m a mess. How could Jesus save someone like me?” The beauty of the gospel is that God meets us in our mess with hope. If you’re a child of God, you can live for God the way He always intended for you to live. Why? Not because of anything you can do, but because of what Jesus did for you.
Q: Does the gospel ever seem too good to be true to you? Why or why not?
Q: In what areas do you need to embrace obedience more in your life? How will you do that?
Focus on the three things you get when you give God your sin: hope, identity, and purpose. Where do you want to see more of these in your life? Tell the Father. Spend time in confession. Ask God to reveal any unaddressed sin in your life. Praise God for the hope Jesus gives you because of His life and sacrifice.
Midway through this week, send a follow-up email to your group with some or all of the following:
Read Hebrews 4:16. Reflect on what it means to approach God with confidence.
Ask the group to share any stories or lessons learned where they see God at work in their lives.
More on Christ’s Sinlessness
“Paul’s declaration of Christ’s sinlessness may be compared with the statements of Peter (1 Pet. 2:22, quoting Isa. 53:9), John (1 John 3:5), and the author of Hebrews (Heb. 4:15; 7:26). The sin with which Christ totally identified himself was extrinsic to him. He was without any acquaintance with sin that might have come through his ever having a sinful attitude or doing a sinful act. Both inwardly and outwardly he was impeccable.”1
The Righteousness of God
What does the phrase “the righteousness of God” (or “God’s righteousness”) mean? Paul discusses it in Romans 1:17; 3:5 and 21; 10:3; and Philippians 3:9. Various interpretations have been offered, including:
1. An attribute of God
2. A quality relating to God’s justice and punishment for sin
3. A quality given (or imputed) to believers
4. A righteous standing before God
5. God’s faithfulness to His promise (or covenant) with Israel to save sinners 6. The saving activity of God the Father through His Son 2
The Gospel Defined
Tim Keller has summarized the gospel this way: “We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.” 3
1. Murray J. Harris, “2 Corinthians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition), ed. Tremper Longman III & Garland, David E., vol. 11 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008), 482.
2. Michael F. Bird, “Righteousness,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).
3. Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God, Reprint ed. (NY: Penguin Books, 2013), 40.